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Department of Archaeology


During the Early and Middle Bronze Age (2500-1600 B.C), a range of exchange networks linked Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and South Asia, facilitating the long-distance movement of a wide variety of raw materials and finished products. Texts from the Sargonic and Ur III period (2300-2000 BC) provide us with lists of commodities entering Mesopotamia from toponyms referred to as ‘Dilmun’ (Bahrain), ‘Magan’ (south-eastern Arabia and southern Iran), and ‘Meluhha’ (the Indus Civilisation), which include copper, tin, semi-precious stones, as well as organic products. Archaeological evidence of the movement of ceramics, softstone vessels, metals, minerals and organic meterials is also present across the eastern Arabian littoral. 

The movement of diverse types of materials suggests that a number of complex and intertwining networks of production and exchange existed both within south-eastern (SE) Arabia as well as between Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and South Asia, particularly between c. 2500-2000 BC (Potts 1991; Magee 2014; Frenez et al. 2016). In the past, these exchange networks have been categorised using centre-periphery models, with assumptions that ancient exchange relied on merchants or elites, for example those under Mesopotamian state-control (Potts 1990; Edens 1992; Crawford 2005). Recently, these models have been criticised, and alternate models of internal exchange economies and household-level exchange economies in SE Arabia have been suggested (Rouse and Weeks 2011; Eddisford 2020). However, network analytical techniques (e.g. Cooper et al. 2011; Brughmans 2013; Sindbæk 2013; Orengo and Livarda 2016) have not yet been used to examine the structure and robustness of Bronze Age Gulf networks.

ENGulf will use Spatial and Social Network Analysis to investigate the networks of exchange of different types of material goods across SE Arabia and the Arabian Gulf during the Bronze Age, specifically the Hafit, Umm an-Nar and Wadi Suq periods in Arabian archaeology (3000-2500 BC, 2500-2000 BC and 2000-1600 BC, respectively). A systematic investigation of different material network across these periods will provide a means to calculate the number and relationships of components as well as the centrality or affiliation of key nodes, revealing the structure of the diffusion of material goods and ideas. 

The use of network analysis methods will reveal the entanglements of different types of material culture and enable a mapping of the relations between different settlements within south-eastern Arabia and across the Gulf over different periods of the Bronze Age. The re-evaluation of known evidence integrated with a network analytical analyses will provide a powerful means to investigate age-old archaeological questions of movement, connectivity, and exchange in Arabia and the ancient Near East.


Gerald Averay Wainwright Fund

Project Tags

Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Material Culture
Periods of interest: 
Copper/Bronze Age
Geographical areas: 
Mesopotamia and the Near East
South Asia
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
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